Closed With I Love You

My daughter’s voice
tumbled zeros and ones
into new configurations
on a phone company server bank.

Hearing her voice
thirty-one years after her death
droned my chest
with fluctuating neural signals.

Those skipped heartbeats
I will never get back.
My extremities blued
as I listened to her message.

The closing beep
signaled back to normal
at an unconscious level
of mental processing.

I smacked myself on the forehead
for automatically hitting delete
instead of replay
to hear her voice again.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

One Shoe Drops

Lori describes her bed
as a sack of potatoes
and her pillow
as a bread loaf full of hungry mice.

Of course she is in her cups.
Of course she feels an ache for connection.

It is the hour of brag
that men label happy
where work-day stomach pains
relax with applied poisons.

Of course she wants someone in her life
to break up with.

Far away in Ukraine
fourth cousins three times removed
fight an enemy armed with lies
that generate a holy sense of purpose.

Of course Lori does not think about it
at a conscious level.

Lori is dimly aware she survives
a toxic, sexist digital workplace
drinking until everyone goes home
and the door shuts her out.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Beside Myself With Grief

Grief is a landlord
who evicts me
as past trauma
ebbs and flows with the present.

It holds possession
of my body
while I watch displaced
from oblique angles.

Of course you cannot imagine
what it is like
to be separated from that
for which you were born to inhabit.

Maybe vast Grief
gave rise to the notion
of the soul
being separate

from the body
and sins the body suffers
at the hands of others.
Or worse—self.

Grief does not ground me
but flies me like a kite
while it acts as a place holder
inside myself.

The only thing to do
is use the tether
to communicate with my tongue
or my fingers to type

so my Grief enters
the ears of others—
who hearing my story
help me carry this brutal survival.

Now it is possible to evict Grief
from my body
and return the flesh
back to its rightful resident.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Courage Folded in a Cedar Chest

Paul’s piecemeal glory
slogged through
a dread swamp
to harvest
fallen dreams.

But the dreams played
with him
like will-o-wisps
and dashing about.

He realized
each fallen dream
bonded with a grief
he was loath
to face.

That it was he
who danced
and dashed about—
not the fallen dream
and its fostered glow.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Cause to Combine

Paul put the worst behind him.
The worst sped up to get in front.

He did not know what to do
about something that did not know its place.

He authored an opinion piece
for the local newspaper about this subject.

Readers thought he used metaphor
attempting to mask racial prejudice.

Paul took himself to his bio-mechanic
to receive a full computer diagnostic

to determine if he was blind
to his own prejudice.

In the mean time, the worst
set up a roadblock on Paul’s time line.

During one of those periods
when time went very fast for Paul

he ran into the worst
while approaching the speed of sound.

The impact warped Paul’s eyes and body.
It nearly broke his eyes and body.

He rebounded from the impact
and fell on his ass.

His body and eyes regained
their original shapes.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


A few weeks ago my latest book Always Just a Little Bit Not Yet was published. It is a best of 2021 poems posted to this blog during that year. If you enjoy my poetry and wish to support my effort (help cover the blog expenses), please order a copy. Always Just a Little Bit Not Yet is available on Amazon.

Measure of Limits

I did not bear witness.
Witness bore me into unspeakable depression.

When we talked to each other
we could not get past sports to politics.

Our sentences self-diverted around the storm
then stalled in the dull-drums.

We were not doing well.
Time shape-shifted into the albatross around my neck.

Though I tried to give you honest answers
I failed, but lied in less than half the responses.

Those lies were about the factual truth.
What I spoke was my emotional truth.

Inadvertently I became a master of avoidance—
especially from others in this dark solitude.

My mind lost descriptive words from lack of use.
Language refused to be a shovel to dig my depression deeper.

Language took a stab at crude description
and pierced witness through the left foot into the ground.

It described a littered street as a slaughter house.
The deceased lay with hands tied behind their backs.

There were no more cheeks to turn.
Justice required a reckoning.

I waged war with love on my tongue
and in my murderous hands.

That was why POWs lived
to have a day in court.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


For the seventh cavalry
the turnpike to heaven
passes Muskogee
and the parade of coffins
look like soapbox derby racers
a little short on paint.

Charon operates
the tollbooth
for the bridge span
over the Arkansas River
to finance a meeting hall
in a retired steamboat
for all the soldiers’ widows
in a state of mental imbalance
due to loneliness.

Four of those women
play Mozart and Bach
as a string quartet
from sheet music
on the front bow of the ship
near where new women
join the floating refuge
from brass bugle calls
written by Dan Butterfield.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Place of Power

A bad road to a vehicle
is probably a good road to walk.

The walk takes you
who knows where.

Bad roads fall off maps
and become lonely places—

places to be alone
among wildlife multitudes.

Out there as you watch the ghosts
of bugs eaten by birds in flight

you may decide it is time
to bury your talisman under freedom.

It may take you days to notice
there are no boundaries.

Neither rivers nor mountains
are boundaries if you learn their ways.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


In a small boat
in Port Angeles harbor
a woman basked
in moonlight
as a breeze nudged
her small boat
closer to
the breakwater
of Edez Hook
and the coast guard
air station.

The Coho Ferry
to and from Victoria
was done
for the night
so its regular path—
which should
have rutted
the strait
of Juan de Fuca—
would not be
an issue
until an hour
after dawn.

In the small boat
Leaves of Grass
lay open
on her belly
as she
lolled back
on a blanket
and let the stars
ease her breath
until it reached
the ground
the salty bay.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Snow is not Necessary

Paul waited at Taos Gorge.
Snow fell blurring the edge.

The trail along the edge
became a bit more treacherous.

I mean the footing
became less sure for the unwary.

Paul did not move.
He felt each foot connect with stone.

Snow collected on the sage
on the ground and on his head and shoulders.

He wore a coat with a hood.
He wore hiking boots.

Standing looking out over the gorge
somehow has the power

to clean something up inside Paul.
It wicks away all his human problems.

He remained hours
and looked into the deep crack in the earth.

The snow swirled on odd air currents
affected by the rift.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney